COLUMN: Can Lincoln City maintain their title challenge until the end of the season?

What a time it is to be a Lincoln City supporter. Top of the National League for Christmas, 17 consecutive games unbeaten, and the league’s top scorers and have only tasted defeat once at Sincil Bank this season.

Not forgetting City are also exceeding all expectations in cup competitions, with a third round FA Cup tie against Ipswich awaiting and a trip to Gateshead in the second round of the FA Trophy.

But the Imps were high-flyers last Christmas, sitting comfortably in fourth this time last year. And they were tipped to retain their position in the play offs but the Christmas period proved to be a hoodoo.

From Boxing Day, the Imps went six games without a win and that downward momentum continued towards the end of the season, where City finished 13th.

A big crowd turned out to see the Imps go top of the National League (Photo: Sam Hewitt)

Lincoln City will be top at Christmas after beating Tranmere last weekend (Photo: Sam Hewitt)

But there’s something special brewing at Sincil Bank this season. The Imps are winning the big matches. The 2-1 victory against Tranmere on Saturday was huge, and the thrilling 3-2 away win at then-table toppers Forest Green Rovers was an advert for the National League.

Manager Danny Cowley has brought a new, attractive style of football to Lincoln, and he’s brought a fair few quality players that can see his team over the line this season too.

One of them is the experienced Nathan Arnold. At 29 years old, he’s still got the legs of a young winger, and has proved to be the signing of the season in the National League.

With nine goals to his name and a handful of assists, he’s become an asset to Cowley. Arnold, who spent last season at Grimsby Town and scored the third goal at Wembley that ensured their return to the Football League, is using his experience not only on the pitch, but on the training ground too.

Cowley's Imps side are now 17 games unbeaten in all competitions.

Cowley’s Imps side are now 17 games unbeaten in all competitions.

He’s been a mentor to youngster Harry Anderson, who impressed when he came off the bench against Tranmere on Saturday and has done since his arrival on loan from Peterborough.

The Imps also have more strength in depth than any other Lincoln City side in recent years. In City’s top of the table clash with Tranmere on Saturday, subs Harry Anderson and Adam Marriott showed real spirit when they came on for Robinson and Hawkridge.

They were running into a game that looked like was getting away from them, as Tranmere pressed for a winner in the latter stages. That was until some brilliant build up play led to Marriott being played through and, with work to do, managed to coolly slot the ball into the bottom corner with just 10 minutes to play.

While still a relatively small squad, the ability to bring quality off of the bench to really swing games has been a huge difference this year, and was the difference once again at the weekend.

Anderson looked sharp and a player who definitely shouldn’t be in the National League, and in future years, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was terrorising Championship defences.

Theo Robinson looks like a man in form too. He has struggled in recent years with disappointing spells at Doncaster Rovers, Motherwell and Port Vale before finding his feet here. His two goals in that historic win against Oldham in the FA Cup will be remembered for a long time.

Up top with the big man Matt Rhead, the two strikers have been formidable.

Lincoln City’s 2016 has been one of ups and downs, but going into Christmas and 2017, the Imps will be looking for a return to the Football League after six years come May.

It looks very promising… brace yourselves Imps fans for a nail-biting six months!

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